enry Huggins stood by the front window of his square white house on Klickitat Street and wondered why Sunday afternoon seemed so much longer than any other part of the week. Mrs. Huggins was reading a magazine, and Mr. Huggins, puffing on his pipe, was reading the funnies in the Sunday
Henry's dog, Ribsy, was asleep in the middle of the living room rug. As Henry looked at him, he suddenly sat up, scratched hard behind his left ear with his left hind foot, and flopped down again without even bothering to open his eyes.
Henry pressed his nose against the windowpane and looked out at Klickitat Street. The only person he saw was Scooter McCarthy, who was riding up and down the sidewalk on his bicycle.
“I sure wish I had a bike,” remarked Henry to his mother and father, as he watched Scooter.
“I wish you did, too,” agreed his mother, “but with prices and taxes going up all the time, I'm afraid we can't get you one this year.”
“Maybe things will be better next year,” said Mr. Huggins, dropping the funnies and picking up the sport section.
Henry sighed. He wanted a bicycle now. He could see himself riding up and down Klickitat Street on a shiny red bike. He would wear his genuine Daniel Boone coonskin cap with the snap-on tail, only he wouldn't wear the tail fastened to the hat. He would tie it to the handle bars so that it would wave in the breeze as he whizzed along.
“Henry,” said Mrs. Huggins, interrupting his thoughts, “please don't rub your nose against my clean window.”
“All right, Mom,” said Henry. “I sure wish something would happen around here sometime.”
“Why don't you go over to Robert's house? Maybe he can think of something to do,” suggested Mrs. Huggins, as she turned a page of her magazine.
“OK,” agreed Henry. Robert's mother said they couldn't give the white mice rides on Robert's electric train anymore, but maybe they could think of something else. “Come on, Ribsy,” said Henry.
Ribsy stood up and shook himself, scattering hair over the rug.
“That dog,” sighed Mrs. Huggins.
Henry thought he had better leave quickly. As he and Ribsy started down the front steps, Robert came around the corner.
“What's up, Doc?” said Robert.
“Hi,” responded Henry.
“My dad said maybe if I came over to your house, you could think of something to do,” said Robert.
The boys sat down on the front steps. “Here comes old Scooter,” observed Robert. The two boys watched the older boy pumping down the street on his bicycle. He was whistling, and not only was he riding without touching the handlebars, he even had his hands in his pockets.
“Hi,” said Scooter casually, without stopping.
“Big show-off,” muttered Robert. “I bet he takes that bike to bed with him.”
“He sure thinks he's smart,” agreed Henry. “He's been riding up and down all afternoon. Come on, let's go around in the backyard, where we won't have to watch old Scooter show off all day. Maybe we can find something to do back there.”
Ribsy followed at the boys' heels. Unfortunately, the backyard was no more interesting than the front. The only sign of life was next door. A large yellow cat was dozing on the Grumbies' back steps, and there was smoke coming from the barbecue pit.
Robert looked thoughtful. “Does Ribsy ever chase cats?”
“Not that old Fluffy.” Henry, understanding what was on Robert's mind, explained that Mrs. Grumbie sprinkled something called Doggie-B-Gone on her side of the rosebushes. Ribsy disliked the smell of it and was careful to stay on his side of the bushes.
Robert was disappointed. “I thought Ribsy mightâ¦”
“No such luck,” interrupted Henry, looking at his dog, who had settled himself by the back steps to continue his nap. Henry picked a blade of grass and started to blow through it when the squeak-slam of the Grumbies' screen door made him look up. “Jeepers!” he whispered.
Stepping carefully over Fluffy, Mr. Hector Grumbie walked down the back steps. He was wearing a chef's tall white hat and an immense white apron. “What's cooking?” was written across the hat, and on the apron was printed a recipe for “Bar X Ranch Bar-B-Q Sauce.” Mr. Grumbie carried a tray full of bowls, jars, bottles, and what appeared to be bunches of dried weeds.
“Is he really going to cook?” whispered Robert.
“Search me,” answered Henry. The two boys edged closer to the rosebushes that divided the two yards.
“Hello, Mr. Grumbie,” said Henry.
“Hello there, Henry.” Mr. Grumbie crossed the lawn and set the tray on the edge of the barbecue pit in the corner of his yard. He peeled a small object which he put into a bowl, sprinkled with salt, and mashed with a little wooden stick. Then he broke off pieces of the dried weeds and mashed them, too.
Henry and Robert exchanged puzzled looks.
“Need any help, Mr. Grumbie?” asked Henry.
“No, thank you.” Mr. Grumbie poured a few drops of something into the mixture.
“Is that something that's supposed to be good to eat?” asked Robert. Mr. Grumbie didn't answer.
“What's that stuff in the bowl?” asked Henry.
“Herbs and garlic,” answered Mr. Grumbie. “Now run along and play, boys. I'm busy.”
Henry and Robert did not move.
“Etta!” called Mr. Grumbie to his wife. “I forgot the vinegar.” He coughed as a breeze blew smoke in his face.
“I'll go get it for you,” offered Henry, but his neighbor ignored him.
Squeak-slam went the screen. Mrs. Grumbie stepped over Fluffy and walked across the yard with a bottle in her hand. “Hector, can't we take your friends out to dinner instead of going to all this trouble?” she asked, as she fanned smoke out of her eyes.
“This is no trouble at all.” Mr. Grumbie added a few drops of vinegar to the mixture in the bowl.
Henry thought Mrs. Grumbie looked cross, as she said, “Hector, why don't you let me cook the meat in the house? It would be so much easier and then we could bring it outside to eat.”
“Now, Etta, I know what I'm doing.” Mr. Grumbie poured a few drops from another bottle and mashed some more.
“But I don't like to see you spoil the flavor of a perfectly good piece of meat with all that seasoning. It would be different if you really knew how to cook.” Mrs. Grumbie frowned, as she swatted at a bug circling over the sauce.
Mr. Grumbie frowned even more. “Anyone who can read a recipe can cook.”
Mrs. Grumbie's face turned red, as she clapped the bug between her hands, and said sharply, “Oh, is that so? What about the time you cut up tulip bulbs in the hamburgers because you thought they were onions?”
“That,” said Mr. Grumbie, even more sharply, “was different.”
Mrs. Grumbie angrily fanned smoke with her apron. “Just remember when we try to eat this mess you're fixing that it wasn't my idea. Even if the recipe is any good, the meat will probably be burned on the outside and raw inside. Smoke will get in our eyes and we'll be eaten alive by mosquitoes andâ¦”
Mr. Grumbie interrupted. “Etta, we won't argue about it anymore. I invited my friends to a barbecue and we're going to have a barbecue.”
Henry and Robert were disappointed. They hoped the Grumbies would argue about it a lot more.
Then Mr. Grumbie looked at the recipe printed on his apron. Because he was looking down at it, the words were upside down for him. “What does it say here?” he asked, pointing to his stomach.
Henry and Robert could not help snickering.
“Now, boys, run along and don't bother us. We're busy,” said Mrs. Grumbie.
“Come on, Robert.” Henry turned away from the rosebushes. He felt uncomfortable around Mrs. Grumbie, because he thought she didn't like him. At least, she didn't like Ribsy and that was the same as not liking Henry. He didn't want to make her any crosser than she was already, although secretly he couldn't see why she minded Ribsy's burying a bone in her pansy bed once in a while.
Henry tried standing on his hands just to show Mrs. Grumbie he wasn't paying any attention to what she was doing. Then he heard someone coming up his driveway. It was his friend Beezus and her little sister Ramona, who lived in the next block on Klickitat Street. Beezus's real name was Beatrice, but Ramona called her Beezus, and so did everyone else. Beezus was carrying a baton and Ramona was riding a shiny new tricycle.
“Whoa!” yelled Ramona to her tricycle. Then she got off and tied it to a bush with a jumping rope.
“Hello,” said Beezus. “See my baton.”
The boys examined the metal rod, which was about two and a half feet long with a rubber knob at each end.
“What are you going to do with it?” asked Henry.
“Twirl it,” said Beezus.
“I'll bet,” scoffed Robert.
“I am, too,” said Beezus. “I take lessons every Saturday. By June I'll be good enough so I can twirl it in the Junior Rose Festival parade, and some day I'm going to be a drum majorette.”
“June is only a couple of months away,” said Henry, wondering what he would do in the parade this year. “Let's see you twirl it.”
Beezus held the baton over her head and started to turn it with her right hand. It slipped from her fingers and hit her on the head.
“Boi-i-ing!” shouted the two boys together.
“You keep quiet,” said Beezus crossly.
“Let me try,” said Henry.
“No,” answered Beezus, whose feelings were hurt.
“I didn't want to anyway.” Henry started across the yard. “Come on, Robert, let's climb the cherry tree.”
“All right for you, Henry Huggins!” shouted Beezus, as the boys scrambled up through the branches. “I'm going home. Come on, Ramona, untie your horse.”
But Ramona had seen Ribsy and she began to pat him on the head. Ribsy groaned in his sleep and sat up to scratch. Suddenly he was wide awake, sniffing the air.
“Wuf!” said Ribsy.
Henry could tell by the sound of the bark that Ribsy was excited about something. He peered out through the leaves of the cherry tree, but could see nothing unusual in his backyard. He saw Ribsy stand up, shake himself, and trot purposefully toward the Grumbies' backyard, with Ramona running after him.
Henry looked across the rosebushes and groaned at what he saw. On a platter beside the barbecue pit was a large piece of raw meat. The Grumbies were nowhere in sight.
“Here, Ribsy! Come here, boy!” called Henry frantically, but Ribsy did not stop. “Catch him, Beezus!”
Ramona, who was trying to follow Ribsy through the rosebushes, shrieked.
“Hold still,” directed Beezus, struggling with her little sister. “I can't get you loose from all these thorns when you wiggle that way.”
“Come on, we better be getting out of here.” Henry slipped and slid down the tree. “I bet the rain washed off the Doggie-B-Gone.”
“I guess we better,” agreed Robert cheerfully. After all, Ribsy wasn't his dog.
Henry hit the ground and tried to run through the rosebushes. Thorns clawed at his jeans and held him fast. “Here, Ribsy,” he yelled. “Here, Ribs, old boy!”
Ribsy jumped for the roast.
With one desperate jerk, Henry tried to free himself from the roses. The thorns dug deeper into his legs.
Ribsy sank his teeth into the meat and pulled it to the ground.
Mr. Grumbie came through the back door with an armload of kindling. “Hey, stop that dog!” he yelled, dropping the wood on his toe. “Ow!” he groaned, as he started toward Ribsy and stepped on Fluffy's tail.
An ear-splitting yowl brought Mrs. Grumbie to the back porch. “Fluffy,” she cooed, “did the man step on the precious pussycat's tail?”
Ribsy paused to take a firmer grip on the roast.